Team in Transit


We made it to Christchurch! The rest of the core team (Emma, Emily, Erin, and Heather H…herein referred to as HH to avoid confusion with multiple Heathers) all left Monday from our home airports in California and met up at the Tom Bradley International terminal at LAX for a 6-hour layover and fun catch-up session. We took a 13-hour red-eye flight to Auckland, New Zealand, where we lost a day in transit over the International Date Line, and arrived on a Wednesday. After going through customs, we flew the final leg to Christchurch. We were tired but super excited and forced ourselves to stay awake for the rest of the day to help transition to New Zealand time (which is actually just 4 hours and a day different than California time).

The next morning, we got up early and headed to the Antarctic Support Center for orientation, to get our laptops approved to connect to the network, verify our flu shots, and try on our ECW (extreme cold weather) gear. We spent so much time making sure our clothing fit properly that we got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Clothing Distribution Center (the other “CDC,” not to be confused with the Center for Disease Control). We finally got to see an organizational flow chart showing the chain of command between the many agencies and organizations who operate at McMurdo, which helped explain how complex the operations are to make science happen at the bottom of the world. We covered such important topics as why the internet is so slow at McMurdo (a few old, slow satellites that cover Antarctica and no undersea fiber optic cables or commercial telecom providers) and whether vomit belongs in hazardous waste or food waste (jury is out on this one). We learned that the average age of the 900 person summer population is 41 years and our Growing Up on Ice project is one of just 12 sea ice and local McMurdo supported science events this season. We met so many interesting people with diverse backgrounds and expertise, from IT support to waste management to kitchen staff. It is truly remarkable just how many people it takes to keep the NSF mission going in such a remote corner of the world, and what an extreme privilege it is to be a part of it all.

Our ice flight has been delayed for weather for the past few days, so we’ve been making the most of our time in Christchurch. We’ve explored the botanical gardens, experienced the cold weather simulator in the Antarctic Center (good preparation for the real thing), saw ancient moa (bird) skeletons at the Canterbury Museum, and sampled local cheeses at the farmers’ market. Our ice flight is currently scheduled for tomorrow morning…fingers crossed and stay tuned!

Written by: Heather Harris (HH)

Heather Liwanag